Orbital Insight raises $50 million to grow alongside Earth-observation industry


This story was updated May 3 to add additional comment from Orbital Insight CEO James Crawford.

SAN FRANCISCO —  Geospatial analytics firms Orbital Insight plans to expand its workforce and create new data products with a $50 million investment the Silicon Valley startup raised in Series C round announced May 2.

“We are on the precipice of having daily five-meter imagery of the world, and then daily one-meter imagery within a few years,” James Crawford, Orbital Insight founder and chief executive, said in a statement. “Until very recently, the standard was weekly 15-meter imagery, with one-meter imagery available much less frequently.”

Orbital Insight founder and CEO James Crawford. Credit: Orbital Insight
Orbital Insight founder and CEO James Crawford. Credit: Orbital Insight

Orbital Insight plans to combine frequently updated, high-resolution Earth imagery with other types of geospatial information to create new data products. The firm already uses machine learning and computer vision to count and measure objects in satellite imagery provided by operators, including Airbus Defence and Space, DigitalGlobe, ImageSat International, MDA, Planet and Urthecast, to offer clients information on traffic patterns in retail store parking lots, global crude oil inventories, regional poverty levels and surface water reserves.

“One of the great things about working with satellite imagery is that it’s inherently global and applies across industry verticals,” Crawford said by email. “In addition to expanding the geographic coverage and accuracy of our current products, we’d like to look at other natural resources, like iron ore, that will help us better understand overall construction and supply chain trends.”

“We’ve only just begun to uncover a handful of signals, but we’ve already seen the impact they can have on financial, energy and insurance markets, as well as society as a whole,” Crawford said. “We’re looking forward to having an even greater presence as we scale alongside the industry.”

Orbital Insight’s Series C round was led by Sequoia Capital and included Envision Ventures, Balyasny Asset Management, Geodesic Capital, ITOCHU Corporation, Intellectus Partners, GV, Lux Capital and CME Ventures. Since it was founded in 2013, Orbital Insight has raised $78.7 million.

“The proliferation of affordable drones and satellites is generating unprecedented amounts of geospatial imagery, and Orbital Insight is making that data actionable,” Bill Coughran, Sequoia Capital partner and Orbital Insight board member, said in the statement. “Just as Google is organizing the world’s information, Orbital Insight is interpreting it.”

With its latest funding round, Orbital Insight plans to expand its workforce. “The company is growing rapidly and looking forward to expanding even further with this latest funding round,” Crawford said by email.

Orbital Insight is based in Mountain View, California, and has sales offices in New York and Washington. We’re looking to expand engineering significantly and open (and staff) offices in both Asia and Europe with this new funding round,” Crawford added. “We’re excited to expand to a more international market, and will be specifically increasing our footprint in Asia and Europe as a first step.”